Varicose veins can be more than just unsightly. They can lead to chronic venous insufficiency, a condition that can cause pain, swelling, ulcers and other problems for patients.
Technological advancements mean treating varicose veins is safer and more effective than ever. Mercy Fort Smith's new endovenous ablation program is designed to help alleviate chronic venous insufficiency and help patients get back on their feet.
“Chronic venous insufficiency is very underdiagnosed,” said Dr. Surbhi Chamaria, interventional cardiologist at Mercy Fort Smith, adding that about 30 million people in America have the condition. The biggest risk factors include lack of exercise, excess weight, leg trauma, smoking or ulcers. Heredity also plays a role.
“Basically, what happens is that blood usually flows from our legs up and back into our heart,” she said. “These veins have valves that limit the flow of blood downward. Sometimes when patients develop varicose veins or chronic venous insufficiency, the valves stop working, and blood can flow in the wrong direction.”
Symptoms of varicose veins include:
· Muscle cramps
Dr. Chamaria said anyone with these symptoms can speak with their primary care physician, who can refer patients to Mercy Clinic Cardiology in Fort Smith. Patients can also contact the clinic directly to make an appointment.
Diagnosing venous insufficiency involves an ultrasound that detects how much blood is flowing in the wrong direction. Once a patient is diagnosed, there are different treatment options that Mercy offers, from conservative to invasive therapies. Conservative therapy would include wearing compression stockings that would help compress the blood and press it back toward the heart.
Mercy’s new program, venous ablation, is an outpatient procedure that involves using a radiofrequency catheter to burn the vein in order to stop the backflow of blood down toward the leg. The process involves an ultrasound for a re-scan of the leg so doctors can see exactly where the vein is and to locate an access point.
The procedure takes no more than 30 minutes, and afterward, the leg is wrapped in cloth bandages for 48 hours. The patient wears regular compression stockings for 48-72 hours after the procedure, then undergoes another ultrasound.
After the procedure, patients will see relief from pain, discomfort and swelling as well as improved blood flow, which will help their overall healing process.
There are no conditions that would prevent someone from undergoing a venous ablation, Dr. Chamaria said, unless a patient had an existing deep vein thrombosis. Some side effects could be mild itchiness or redness.
If a patient is already on blood-thinning medication, physicians will discuss whether it’s safe to stop the medication before the venous ablation, Dr. Chamaria added.
Learn more about varicose veins at mercy.net/service/varicose-veins/. Mercy Clinic Cardiology is at 7001 Rogers Ave., Fort Smith. Click here to learn more or to schedule an appointment.